Friday, May 20, 2005

Rejection Ammunition

I hate (yes hate) to get rejected. I craft an excellent book proposal or magazine article or query letter. I study the market and believe I understand what the editor needs for their organization. Then I still receive the form rejection in the mail.  It’s quite frustrating. Or worse, I send in my material and never hear anything. Yes, it happens even to people who have been often published in the marketplace.

The feelings of rejection come in other ways as well. This week I learned of the sales numbers for one of my books. It hasn’t done too well—even though it is an excellent book and I’ve received kind comments about the writing and contents.  From my years in publishing, I understand there are many chinks in the sales chain to sell a book or product into the marketplace. If the chink is broken in any portion, then the book doesn’t get into the hands of the consumer.  I know the book will sit in the publisher warehouse for a period of time (which varies from place to place) and eventually I’ll receive notice the book is going to be remaindered and put out of print.

I understand rejection as well from the other side of the table—as an editor. Last year, I rejected over 350 fiction submissions from literary agents and individual authors. It was definitely not fun for me but I take some satisfaction in the fact that I faithfully communicated with these individuals. Their submission was carefully considered and then I responded—yet not in the way they expected or hoped.

Where do we get the strength or the fortitude to continue in the face of rejection?

I want to suggest several possibilities for you to use—some of them even today:

1) Be committed to keep on and keep learning about the craft of writing and the business of publishing. You can learn online from various articles or at a writer’s conference or through an audio course or from writing books. I love what James Scott Bell wrote in his article on Rejecting Rejection, “One of my writing heroes, William Saroyan, collected a pile of rejection slips thirty inches high--some seven thousand--before he sold his first short story! Alex Haley, author of Roots, wrote every day, seven days a week for eight years before selling to a small magazine. They stuck it out, and eventually broke through.”

2) Gain strength from the stories of others who have been rejected—yet continued in their writing life.  An excellent article from Catherine Wald, author of The Resilient Writer is in the most recent issue of Right Writing News.  The newsletter is free to every subscriber. When you get the welcome message, it includes the link to the back issues. The 18th issue (May 19th) includes this story.

Catherine Wald is the creator of the Rejection Collection website (fascinating encouragement). I’m still in the process of reading The Resilient Writer (what a great title!) but here’s a quote from the first page of her introduction, “If Author Golden had crumpled when a high-powered agent told him his manuscript was “too dry,” Memoirs of a Geisha would have never seen the light of day.” (a best-selling novel)

There are many reasons for rejection—and we may know that intellectually—but we need to gather all of the rejection ammunition we can collect. Then we will have continued strength for the ongoing work of our writing.


2 Comment:

At 4:06 PM, Blogger Robin Bayne Left a note...

Kudos to you for at least communicating with the authors whose work you must reject. Thanks for being an example in the industry : )

At 4:01 AM, Blogger Mary J. Yerkes Left a note...

Wonderful article, Terry! It allowed me to see rejection from an entirely different perspective--the editors!

I'm working with an editor now who has taken the time to point out weaknesses in an article I submitted. She graciously has given me an opportunity to make changes, based on her input. Regardless of her final decision, I appreciate that she, and others like her, take the time to communicate with writers. It makes such a difference!


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